RAWALPINDI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has decided to operate flights to Swat, Skardu and Gilgit with an aim to promote tourism.
Saidu Sharif Airport in Swat was scaled down due to security reasons in 2004 and would be made operational once the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) upgrades it and makes it operational.
PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said the national flag carrier had decided to operate two flights to Saidu Sharif from Islamabad on a weekly basis from next month to facilitate tourists.
He said PIA also planned to operate flights between Lahore and Skardu and Lahore and Gilgit from next month.
The spokesman said the CAA had already been informed about PIA’s plan to start flight operations to Saidu Sharif and once the airport was made operational, the airline would announce its flight schedule.
Flights from Lahore to Skardu and Gilgit will start next month
A senior Civil Aviation Authority official said some construction work had been started at Saidu Sharif Airport which was now complete.
Meanwhile, out of 44 airports in the country, 27 are operational, six have been scaled down while 11 have been closed. Among the non-functional airports are the Sargodha and Bannu airports, said the CAA.
Sargodha airport does not have any CAA staff, but it has an operational PAF base Mushaf. The facility in Bannu was scaled down in 2002 due to commercial non-viability of airlines.
However, currently there is no proposal under consideration to operationalise it.
Among the airports that have been scaled down are the ones in Khuzdar, Muzaffarabad, Balakot, Bannu, Parachinar and Saidu Sharif. The airports that have been closed are in Jiwani PN, Ormara, Sibi, Mangla, Kohat, Bhagtanwala, Mianwali, Sehwan Sharif, Mirpurkhas, Talhar and Jacobabad.
At present, 12 international airports are operating across the country. They are Jinnah International Airport Karachi, Allama Iqbal International Airport Lahore, Islamabad International Airport Islamabad, Bacha Khan International Airport Peshawar, Quetta International Airport, Multan International Airport, Faisalabad, Rahim Yar Khan, Turbat, Gwadar, old Benazir Bhutto International Airport and Sialkot International Airport, which was built privately by the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The CAA, however, said if the location was deemed commercially viable by the airlines, a scaled-down airport could be upgraded or made operational within 90 days.
Of the 44 airports located across the country, 12 are handling international flights and 15 airports the domestic flights.
Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2021